Tom Richmond: A smooth talker – but can PM keep his word?

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DAVID Cameron has to have a way with words. Prime Ministers need the ability to be able to think on their feet and he responded to the electoral deadlock of 2010 by making a “big, open and comprehensive” offer to the Lib Dems to form a coalition in the national interest. It was the correct phraseology at a time of political tumult.

Yet he also has an unfortunate habit, in the era of the soundbite, not to temper the use of his language when in a tight political corner – whether it be immigration, English devolution or the re-deployment of the Armed Forces back to Iraq.

First there is the Tory leader’s “no ifs, no buts” promise before the last election to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. A pledge made out of necessity – and in haste – in order to appease Ukip voters, Cameron failed to differentiate between migrants from the EU, which the Government cannot control, and those from further afield, where caps can be imposed.

Cameron’s growing difficulties on immigration as a result of this rash promise have become akin to the recent performances of the aptly-named racehorse No Buts who won a race last month before falling in the big race at Cheltenham last weekend. How ironic.

The second example of Cameron raising false expectations came on the steps of Downing Street on September 19 when he responded to the Scottish independence referendum by saying: “The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question – requires a decisive answer.”

As the Tory leader created the impression that this democratic deficit would be resolved before the election, he failed to point out that he did not have a Parliamentary majority to push through this reform.

It culminated with Commons leader William Hague outlining various options to Parliament on Tuesday in the knowledge that simply cannot be implemented before polling day.

And, thirdly, there is the Prime Minister’s summer statement that the Government’s position on Iraq is “clear” and that the UK would not deploy “boots on the ground” to counter Islamic Statement militants.

Really? Troops from the Yorkshire Regiment were briefly deployed to assist the training of Iraqi soldiers and the past week has seen reports that an additional deployment of British troops numbering “in the low hundreds” will be sent to Iraq next month to train local forces battling IS forces.

Though Cameron will say there is a significant difference between training troops and frontline forces, a war-weary electorate may not be so willing to accept such subtleties of language.

They will also have every reason to be unforgiving if this deployment takes place during Parliament’s Christmas recess to avoid scrutiny. After all, it is the PM who has said that military action should not take place without the approval of MPs wherever possible.

Though many will also point to the deficit as being another example of Cameron’s broken promises, I’m prepared to be slightly more charitable – Ministers could not have foreseen the consequences of the financial mess bequeathed to them by the last Labour government.

That said, it does not excuse David Cameron not being more realistic when he makes his pronouncements and issuing diplomatic caveats like “where possible”. For, if he did, voters might be slightly more inclined to give him – and his party – a second chance next May.

JIM Murphy scored an inauspicious own goal on the day that he became Labour’s leader in Scotland. After pledging that the party north of the border would not become a London branch office, the criticism of his predecessor, Labour’s former international development spokesman gave an interview to Sky News setting out his priorities.

There was just one problem – it was filmed outside London’s Emirates Stadium prior to Arsenal’s match against Newcastle United.

I WAS stumped the other day when asked to name my politician of the year. There’s not one, I ventured, who carries the respect of the whole country. And then a name did dawn on me. One person did save Great Britain in 2014 – the Queen. Her request to the Scots to “think very carefully” ahead of the independence referendum was just enough to tilt the outcome in favour of the preservation of the United Kingdom. Take a bow ma’am – you have more than earned your Christmas G&T.

IT appears that I am not a lone voice in calling for the five year fixed-term parliament law to be repealed when next year’s election is called – former Labour minister Alan Johnson echoed the view on Andrew Marr’s programme. If only the rest of the political establishment could recognise the fact that future governments should not be bound by a well-intended measure that was passed out of necessity when the Tories and Lib Dems came together in 2010.

LEAVING aside his “man flu”, why on earth was Gary Lineker presenting the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony on Sunday?

His role simply highlights the BBC’s obsession with celebrity. He has none of the natural warmth and repartee of Des Lynam – or the presence of David Coleman who joined the great commentary box in the sky on this weekend 12 months ago.

And I’m not aware of anyone who shares Lineker’s smutty humour, whether it be his remarks to golfer Rory McIlroy or the patronising portrayal of Yorkshire during a one minute resume of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ which was an insult to all those who embraced the biggest sporting event of the year.

If I was in charge of the BBC, I’d be giving lame Lineker – a one-dimensional footballer at best – his marching orders and tell him to stick to the adverts for crisps. It’s about his level.

TALKING of Sports Personalty, the undeserving winner Lewis Hamilton says he pays “a lot” of tax in the UK – even though he lives in the tax haven of Monaco.

One question for the glorified Scalextric driver. How much? The public finances could do with some Christmas cheer.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk